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Barcelona, Josep Maria Bartomeu, Camp Nou, Lionel Messi, La Masia

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Barcelona have lost its essence

Former Barcelona president Narcis de Carreras once said “Barcelona is more than a football club. This philosophy at Barcelona is so ingrained that Mes que un Club (more than a club) became club’s slogan. It itself says what it means to Catalunya and those who admire the club around the world. And, here I’m to make the remark that the world’s most admired football club has lost its essence.

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Yes, I stand by it. Barcelona suffered their most humiliating defeat last night as they lost their Champions League semi-final berth which was almost granted after the first-leg result. Blaugranas were leading 4-1 from their Camp Nou result and yet they lose their berth on away goal with their 3-0 loss at Stadio Olimpico. It left everyone around the club devastated. Players, fans, chairman each have had his say on the result and it was mournful.

Barcelona chairman Josep Maria Bartomeu taking the responsibility said, “I’m sorry for the Barca fans, we are all sad. We feel for the fans around the world but we have a very competitive side who will pick themselves up. Roma were the better side and they are deserved semi-finalists. Congratulations to Roma and now we have to analyze today’s game and think about the league and the Copa del Rey.”

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He adds, “We were excited about getting to the semi-finals and we played really well in the first leg. Every season we look to win the Champions League so we now have to take a look at that. I want to thank all the fans who come to the stadium to support us, I’m sorry for them.”

But sorry won’t help. Barcelona has been eliminated at quarterfinals stage of Uefa Champions League third time in a row. When you’re one of the two big names in club football, you’re supposed to reach at least semis each season. And in Barcelona case, they have watched the other winning Europe’s most prized possession from distance six out of seven previous seasons. They have been vulnerable competing against the European top teams in recent years and the club needs to analyze were they are heading.

Barcelona, Josep Maria Bartomeu, Camp Nou, Lionel Messi, La Masia

Their essence has already lost because of La Masia products are out of favour in Barcelona senior team. We haven’t heard about next big names from the academy who can replace the current base of aging players in Sergio Busquets, Andre Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Lionel Messi. There may be still quality products but they haven’t been tested at the bigger stage. Recent Barcelona senior team manager has lost faith in academy players.

And from there the next big problem emerged. They have invested heavily in the transfer market in search of quality players. They have splashed €600 million on 13 signings in last two seasons, and if you see the Barcelona lineups in the matches it hasn’t changed much. You’ll find the same playing XI who were playing the game three seasons back. So, where are these investments; are they on the bench? So, why they are not used. You don’t have faith in them so why buy them?

Barcelona, Josep Maria Bartomeu, Camp Nou, Lionel Messi, La Masia

It’s three seasons and you haven’t get past the Uefa Champions League quarterfinals stage. I hope these investments were made to make the team strong and win big in Europe. That’s not the case; the rapid expenses to build the team haven’t produced the rapid successes. Your success is still measured by your domestic successes, whereas your biggest rival has dominated Europe with back to back Uefa Champions League trophy and there may be a third in a row this season. And they have done it with adopting your model of success, investing heavily in academy players and spending less on galactic signings. The role has clearly reversed between both Spanish giants.

Barcelona were strong in midfield with the presence of Xavi, Iniesta, and Busquets. They were the fulcrum of Barca’s possession game. But with Xavi’s departure, Iniesta aging and Busquets caught up on his weakness of being slow. Barcelona have lost their main weapon of playing possession-based football.

This midfield is only a shadow of past with Busquets, Iniesta, and Rakitic in midfield. Rakitic is trying to cover up for the burdensome duo and in the result, most of the time Barcelona finds themselves on the suffering end.

Lionel Messi, call him demigod or Barcelona is Messi and Messi is Barcelona or anything you want, but the truth is he is human. He is aging, his pace has dropped, and he can’t make those dribbles which he used to make in his early 20’s. Earlier the game used to revolve around midfield fulcrum and Messi’s job was simply to convert those good balls into goals. Nowadays, Messi’s job is everything he can do in his capacity to win the matches for Barcelona. And knowing his limited capacity without the ball, it’s too much of dependence.

In Laliga, Messi runs lesser than other outfield players in the league. You can imagine how difficult it would be for Barcelona to defend against a high-pressing team. Messi and Suarez don’t make much of the backward runs and sides with physical ability find it easier to get past Barca defense because they almost play 11 against 8.

What Barcelona management are up to is difficult to guess, but on the surface, they have lesser things planned out. Except getting more sponsorship, increasing the capacity of the ground, and other marketing stuffs to make Barcelona first €1 billion revenue club, you’ll hardly agree with Barcelona senior management.

They must know the club may be more than a football club, but it’s first about football. You play the great football and your involvement goes bigger in other aspects of life as well. Barcelona is not playing the football everyone craves to watch. Pep Guardiola’s era has lasted six seasons ago, and the club has failed to create a different identity under the five managers served on board since then. They might have won everything after Guardiola as well but they didn’t win it beautifully. It didn’t get the same respect it has earned under Guardiola.

Technical secretary Robert Fernandez has been criticized in recent seasons for his signings but he is still there on board. None of his signings have made an immediate impact in this Barcelona lineup, although he has invested heavily in the squad. But Barcelona is still the best team, not the best squad.

Barcelona has lost their essence in everything they had a belief in. La Masia academy role has decreased. Unicef logo has been replaced by Rakuten brand for sponsorship money. Tickets prices will be raised for more revenue. Camp Nou name will be changed for the sake of money arriving from the sponsored brand. The only thing has remained over the seasons is that there has been no improvement in football after Guardiola’s era. Messi has been the lone figure to carry Barcelona on his own shoulders as he carries Argentina national team.

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